Producers: Chris DeFaria Director: Tim Story Screenplay: Kevin Costello Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Pallavi Sharda, Colin Jost, Jordan Bolger, Rob Delaney, Patsy Ferran, Somi De Souza. Ajay Chhabra, Daniel Adegboyega, Camilla Arfwedson, Nicky Jam, Bobby Cannavale, Lil Rel Howery, Tim Story, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Ben Shepard, Patrick Poletti, Janis Ahern and Ken Jeong Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
The ever-battling cat-and-mouse cartoon team of Tom and Jerry had a long, successful run in the 1940s and 1950s, first in theatrical shorts and then on TV, but efforts to move them into features have never worked, and this latest is no exception. “Tom & Jerry” is one of those frenzied animation-live action hybrids in which neither element is particularly amusing and smashed together they’re pretty deadly.
Even without the Itchy and Scratchy effect to contend with, the high jinks of Tom and Jerry come across as pointlessly nasty today. To be honest, they never had the wit of Tweety and Sylvester to begin with, and though the Warner team has tried to inject some of the old Loony Tunes spirit into the proceedings (like an elaborate Rube Goldberg gag that seems out of place but is a rare moment of inspiration), it really don’t take.
Nonetheless, given the lameness of the dialogue provided for the human and other animal characters, it’s probably for the best that Kevin Costello resisted repeating the mistake of 1992’s “Tom & Jerry: The Movie” in making the “lead” characters speak. They remain mute except for a few screams and grunts, as they were in the old days.
In any event, after a quasi-prologue in which the cartoon duo are shown arriving in New York and getting into a fight in Central Park when Jerry horns in on Tom’s act as a supposedly blind keyboard-playing busker, their ensuing antics are clumsily shoehorned into the live-action story of the real star here—Chloë Grace Moretz. She plays Kayla, a homeless delivery girl who quits her job and wheedles her way into a position at the plush Royal Gate Hotel by taking the identity of a qualified applicant (Camilla Arfwedson), much to the annoyance of Terence (Michael Peña), the venue’s event organizer, when the obtuse manager (Rob Delaney) overrules his objections.
Kayla’s hiring coincides with preparations for a splashy wedding at the hotel, the spectacular nuptials of internet sensations Ben (Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda), who arrive with their cat Toots and their bulldog Spike (the latter voiced by Bobby Cannavale). But bringing off the shebang is threatened when Jerry moves in, sending Chef Jackie (Ken Jeong) into a conniption fit. Assigned to evict the rodent, Kayla hires Tom, who’s only too glad to oblige. Of course, much mayhem ensues, especially after Jerry purloins Preeta’s fabulous engagement ring and Kayla must get it back.
It goes without saying that “Tom & Jerry” is a frantic business when the titular pair are involved, but that doesn’t mean their routine is a terribly funny one; a little of it goes a long way, which explains why they were far more popular in shorts. The other animals—all in cartoon form—are a pretty dull bunch.
As for the human stuff, it’s on the level of bad “family entertainment,” with lots of dopey jokes and misplaced sentiment when it comes to Ben and Preeta’s big Indian wedding, whose hugeness threatens their happiness, especially since cat and mouse turn it, and the hotel, into the predictable shambles—though all, of course, ultimately ends well for everybody.
Moretz’s enthusiasm is obviously feigned, and Peña is forced to undergo multiple humiliations, though he exhibits some flair at double-takes. Delaney is fine as the stuffy, stupid manager and Jordan Bolger nicely laid-back as the hotel bartender, while Patsy Ferran gets a few moments to shine as a dim-bulb bellhop and Daniel Adegboyega wisely underplays as the seen-it-all doorman. Jost and Sharda are boring, though apparently we’re meant to care about them, and with Jeong in the cast, one can be certain of a diet of heavy mugging.
The movie has the bright look expected of such fare, thanks to James Hambidge’s production design, Alison McCoch’s costumes (the Indian dress especially) and Alan Stewart’s glossy cinematography. The animated figures are inserted into the live-action footage reasonably well, though it’s painfully obvious the human actors have the usual difficulty in “acting” against cartoon characters to be inserted later. Peter Eliot’s editing is often lethargic, leading to an overextended running time.
A particularly irksome aspect of the movie is the music, which includes both a score by Christopher Lennertz that intrusively hammers home the supposed jocularity of every moment, and a surfeit of hip-hop songs that grow increasingly grating, especially as they’re played at ear-splitting volume.
Kids ten and under may enjoy “Tom & Jerry”—after all, Bart and Lisa are addicted to Itchy and Scratchy. Nostalgia-fueled parents might appreciate it too, but they’d probably find five minutes of it more than enough.